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Why Daborn v Bath Tramways is important

In Daborn v Bath Tramways, the Court considered the utility of action when deciding whether a person had failed to take reasonable care.

Facts

The claimant, Daborn, was driving a left-hand drive ambulance. The ambulance only had one mirror on the left hand side of the car. Furthermore, there was no view through the back of the vehicle. There was a caution sign on the back of the vehicle warning about this.

As the claimant turned right, the ambulance was struck by a bus. The claimant was unable to see the bus because of her restricted vision with only one mirror. The claimant did intimate that she was turning right, but through the left window of the car. Daborn was severely injured.

Claim

Miss Daborn brought a claim against the bus company in the tort of negligence. The defendants argued that the claimant should have done more to protect herself, and having failed to do so was negligent and not entitled to recover.

Held

The Court of Appeal dismissed the defendant’s appeal, concluding that the defendant had failed to take reasonable care.

Reasoning

The Court concluded that the defendant was negligent in driving down the inside of the car: they were aware that a right turn was approaching and knew that the claimant was unable to give orthodox signals.

The Court unanimously held that Miss Daborn had not herself been negligent. Bath Tramways argued that Miss Daborn should have pulled to the side of the road to check through the right window whether the road was clear. The Court held that this required too much from the claimant, and what she did (slowing down and signalling through her left window, with a warning on the back of her car) was safe.

In the words of Asquith LJ:

As has often been pointed out, if all the trains in this country were restricted to a speed of 5 miles an hour, there would be fewer accidents, but our national life would be intolerably slowed down.

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